Legionella - An Important Issue

In the wake of a recent legionella outbreak on the Bibby Stockholm, water hygiene has become a crucial concern in the UK. The presence of legionella in water sources poses a serious threat, potentially leading to legionnaires' disease, a fatal form of pneumonia that requires timely intervention for prevention.

Legionella, a pathogenic gram-negative bacteria genus, encompasses Legionella pneumophila, commonly found in natural water bodies and constructed water systems like cooling towers, condensers, and spa pools.

Surviving at low temperatures and thriving between 20°C-45°C, legionella is particularly problematic in the presence of scale, corrosion, and other bacteria. Maintaining hot water at temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius is imperative.

Individuals over 45, smokers, and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to legionella infection. Initial symptoms mimic flu, progressing to severe conditions like breathing difficulties and hallucination, often treated with antibiotics.

Although legionella outbreaks in the UK are infrequent, the 2019 incident in London at Dolphin Square serves as a reminder. Three cases were linked to Legionella, prompting the need for urgent preventive measures.

To avert outbreaks, conducting a risk assessment is vital. This involves identifying potential sources, implementing control measures, monitoring temperatures, and ensuring hygiene checks. High-risk systems should be modified, and water samples tested and treated for bacteria.

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Employers and premises controllers, including landlords, bear the responsibility for health and safety. Understanding legionella-related health risks is essential, requiring actions such as risk identification, management, prevention, record-keeping, and fulfilling other duties.

Carrying out a risk assessment is a personal responsibility. If not competent, seeking assistance from organisations like KEM is advisable for a safe and convenient solution.